Many expectant mothers love to proudly show off their ever-growing bellies. What they might not love so much is the dry, itchy feeling that often accompanies the burgeoning abdomen. Scratching your belly will not harm you or your baby, but do so in moderation. Too much scratching can further irritate the skin, making things worse.
Several things cause itchy skin during pregnancy. Itchy skin is not always limited to the belly area, either. Areas where your skin stretches -- your breasts and abdomen -- usually get a bit dry and itchy during pregnancy. In addition, hormones -- particularly increased levels of estrogen -- can cause your skin to become more sensitive and itchy, according to the Baby Center website. If you are bothered by allergies, dry skin or eczema when you are not pregnant, you might find that these conditions worsen during pregnancy. Finally, there are conditions specific to pregnancy that can cause itchy rashes to appear on the skin, including the belly. One such condition, pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, or PUPPP for short, is signified by red bumps and hives that spread from the abdomen. The bumps and hives are very itchy. Another condition called prurigo of pregnancy causes small itchy "bug bites" to appear on the skin but rarely affects the belly area.
The causes of PUPPP and prurigo are unknown and thus the conditions cannot be prevented, but other causes of dry, itchy skin can be. Avoid taking long soaks in hard bath water, as this can dry out skin. Keep your skin moisturized during pregnancy with mild, all-natural lotions, and avoid allergens that trigger itchy rashes on your skin.
Soothe your itchy skin with an anti-itch creme, a vitamin E ointment, or an oatmeal bath. Use warm, not hot, water as hot water might increase your core body temperature, which is not good for the developing fetus. Use a humidifier if you spend a lot of time in a dry environment and stick with soft fabrics that won't further irritate your itchy belly.
In rare cases, severely itching skin might signify a greater problem. This is especially true during the third trimester. Intense itching all over, not just on the abdomen, can signify a liver problem called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. Because the bile does not flow normally, the bile salts accumulate in the skin, causing the itching. This problem affects less than 1 percent of all pregnant women in America, according to the Baby Center website. Still, see a doctor if you are concerned about your itchy skin. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy can present a danger to your baby.